Build Guide--- Main Thread here on Diablofans (Read comments for FAQ, the math and some background information) ---
With the advent of 2.1.2 and the Demon Hunter changes that came with it, the Cluster Arrow builds have quickly become popular and most players are already used to their play style. Since there are two viable runes to use in solo, I decided to do some in-depth analysis of which is better in which situation, and concluded that physical is indeed overall stronger by a considerable margin in most cases (more on limitations see below). The basic playstyle doesn't change from other 2.1.2 DH builds: Set up sentries, shoot, kite, dodge, shoot again etc. You can see how I do it in the video above.
[Physical vs. Cold Comparison]
So for comparing the two elements, I chose to craft a spreadsheets that includes everything (and the fact that you will have quicker fights vs few targets with phys and the opposite with cold). For more info on how I calculated things here, see the main thread.
Here is a quick comparison of how the numbers turned out. "Element = 1 is cold, = 0 is physical":
Important: These numbers are not actual damage or dps values, but rather a metric to compare total damage output during a given time in relation to rift setup. For the comparison I used the stats I have on my items; the input numbers are the same all bows, my Xbow and Bow rolls are within ~2-3% of the maximum, while my Calamity is lacking behind by ~6-7%. My item rolls are pretty good and I don't use any unnecessary replaceable defensive stats whatsoever. Due to some last minute changes when I took this screenshot the numbers don't match exactly with each other (and 15% sentry bonus is missing), but the relative strength doesn't change. The math implies that physical Calamity is the strongest, followed by physical Bow (to be confirmed in practice), physical Krider, cold Krider, cold Etrayu (in that order).
Note that physical pulls ahead for basically every weapon type. Cold vs. physical is pretty close for Kridershot because I included the Spitfire Turrets for cold, but not for physical (since you will slow with Elemental Arrow), causing the gap to narrow by ~8%. For every other weapon, physical wins out by approximately 10%, even considering that you will spent a lot less time on the RG and elite packs because the rockets are considerably stronger in those situations.
[Pride's Fall vs. Hexing Pants]
You'll have to decide yourself which item you use. Assuming perfect gameplay and 100% uptime of both buffs, you have to consider:
- How often do you lose Pride's Fall buff? More than once per minute? Go Hexing.
- What weapon do you use? Relative strength of Hexing drops with higher attack speed (see spreadsheet).
- Which setup do you run? In a party, Pride's will almost certainly be better in any case. For solo, especially without Taeguk, Hexing will almost certainly be better.
- If you get a plagued elite pack during your rift, Hexing Pants is almost guaranteed to be better.
- Hexing Pants lose effectiveness if you get a power pylon and gain some more if you get a channeling.
[Some further information about itemization]
- Resource cost reduction is king
- Hatred reg vs RCR on quiver is about ~1% worse for Xbow, increasing up to ~3% for Calamity. Hatred reg + RCR is also an option (another 1-4% worse than CA)
- Area Damage is very strong, close to RCR on quiver and weapon (~-2-3% worse), depending on rift layout this might even shift into a net gain
- CDR is not really important (e.g. dropping 12,5% gem is a ~3% loss), the best combination for shoulders is RCR, Sentry, Area Damage
- CA wins out by far vs Sentry on quiver
- Taeguk is the best third legendary gem to use in conjunction with Zei's and Bane of the Trapped, by far. Enforcer is an option in group play (requires ~150% external damage increased by skills at about rank 60 of both gems). BotP is a ~3-10% loss, but usable if you don't want to bother with Taeguk
- Zei’s is not included in the calculations for now, it’s safe to assume that your sentries benefit a little less than you do, and Kridershot with Spitfire Turrets will benefit a bit more from Zei’s
- Ancient Saffron Wrap is an option compared to nonancient Witching Hour (2-5% worse)
- Hellfire Amulet is probably unbeatable
- Using a generic 1h Xbow is not worth it, Calamity is a ~8-12% boost
- Always get % damage on your weapon, and add RCR to it (not for Etrayu). IAS is okay for Kridershot or Calamity as well (~2-4% worse)
- Kridershot 3 Hatred vs 4 Hatred is a ~3-4% dps increase
- Dropping Reaper’s Wraps for IAS bracers is an option, possibly a gain with high attack speeds (only in solo GRs)
- Elite dmg is not included in the calculations, but it should be safe to assume that you will be fighting elites about 1/2 to 2/3 of the time, thus every point of elite damage should boost your overall dps by ~0.5%
[Limitations of Physical Cluster]
Please note that by choosing to run physical, you won't suddenly clear tier 50 easily. It's still difficult, you are still going to get oneshot, you will still have to dodge everything. Also, there will be rifts where just get so many monsters that the benefit of physical will be very small compared to cold, but in most cases, those are the rifts that are actually failed anyway (because they are stuffed with lots of small worthless monsters). For good rifts, where you will encounter numerous big creatures like Golgors, Unburied, Savage Beasts, etc along with some good elites, it's usually a ~10% increase over cold more or less, plain and simple. If you have a well-rolled Etrayu, the difference is smaller and you might be able to actually run cold with it at a level very similar to what you could do with physical. For lower tiers, you can still stack toughness and Unity if you like, the gearing priorities don’t change at all. Use Frost Arrow + Spitfire Turrets or Nether Tentacles as your generator with Kridershot.
For groups, fire is most likely still the way to go, depending on your clear speed. If you are really just rushing through the rifts while basically oneshotting everything (T6, low GRs), cold can shine with its advantage of having 5 rockets instead of 3. This build has its best use in high solo GRs, but you can still use it for different activities as well if you like the visuals and utility of strong rockets.